Many of us are aware of the importance of regular dental care in looking after our teeth and gums and preventing problems such as cavities and tooth or root decay. However, not only can it keep your smile looking at its best, good oral hygiene can also help prevent other health complications, such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. You can find out more here about the connection between your dental health and overall wellness.
Healthy teeth and gums not only make your smile sparkle, but they are also important for keeping your body healthy. Dental conditions, such as gum disease, can cause a range of oral health problems, which if not treated early on, can become progressively worse, causing permanent damage to the bone and tissues that support the teeth. In addition to problematic oral health, gum disease is also linked to other serious health problems including cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, and more.
The Importance of Good Oral Hygiene
Good oral hygiene practices, such as regular brushing and flossing, can help prevent gum disease – a progressive condition that affects the teeth and gums. It is usually caused by a build-up of plaque on the teeth, which is a sticky substance containing bacteria. Some bacteria in the plaque can irritate the gums, causing gum inflammation and other symptoms such as mild pain and soreness, redness, and bleeding gums. In the early stages of gum disease, it is known as gingivitis.
If left untreated, the condition can become more advanced over time, developing into periodontitis. This is a serious gum infection that can damage the soft tissue and bone supporting your teeth and can lead to tooth loss. That’s why it’s important to brush your teeth twice a day, floss once a day, and visit your dentist for regular cleanings and checkups.
How Gum Disease Affects Overall Health
Recent studies have suggested that gum disease can be linked to other health complications, including:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Respiratory disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Difficulty controlling blood sugar in diabetes
- Preterm birth and low birth weight (if affected during pregnancy)
Ongoing gum inflammation caused by bacteria in plaque can lead to deep infections, which can put a strain on the immune system and cause other health problems.
When the immune system senses a foreign invader, such as harmful bacteria, an immune response is created to rid the body of the bacteria. It activates the release of white blood cells (the infection-fighting cells) and antibodies around the bloodstream, along with other body mechanisms to fight the infection. This powerful immune response can disrupt normal cell function or damage healthy tissues, which can have implications on different parts of the body.
Gum Disease and Cardiovascular Disease
Scientists have found that gum disease can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Research suggests that people with gum disease are twice as likely to have cardiovascular disease than people with healthy gums. This is because the cardiovascular system doesn’t respond well to inflammation within the body and reacts by increasing the amount of cholesterol and fats within the bloodstream. Over time, this can cause a build-up of fatty deposits in the blood vessels, which can cause them to narrow and not function as they should.
The Effect of Gum Disease on Diabetes
If diabetes is not managed well, it can lead to elevated glucose levels in the saliva, which promotes the growth of bacteria and increases the chance of gum disease. In turn, infections related to gum disease can also trigger a rise in blood sugar, which can make it more difficult to manage diabetes successfully.
Periodontitis and the Exacerbation of Respiratory Diseases
The bacterium responsible for causing periodontitis can be transferred from the mouth into the lower respiratory system. This can lead to an infection, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, if the bacteria is left to multiply in the lungs. It can also exacerbate respiratory conditions such as COPD and can lead to lower immunity.
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Gum Disease
Over the years, there has been much research (aided by DNA sequencing techniques) to identify a link between gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis. It is believed that particular bacteria associated with periodontitis could be responsible for triggering an immune response by creating autoantibodies. These are immune proteins (antibodies) that mistakenly target and react with tissues and organs within the body.
Risk Factors During Pregnancy
Bacterium related to periodontitis can have the potential to cause problems during pregnancy, which may result in preterm birth or low birth weight. This is because the bacteria may spread into the bloodstream, causing an infection in the upper genital tract or the amniotic fluid. Research has shown that women with periodontitis are up to six times more likely to give birth prematurely than women without the disease.
The Role of Your Dentist in Promoting Overall Wellness
Dentists can play a pivotal role in promoting overall wellness. Regular cleanings and checkups with your dentist can help keep teeth healthy and detect early warning signs of gum disease and other oral health conditions, such as tooth decay. This helps prevent more serious health problems from developing further down the line. If you have an existing medical condition, talk to your dentist. They can work with you to find the best way to manage your dental health despite your medical condition.
Good dental hygiene may not be enough to prevent all diseases, but it can certainly make a difference. Your dental health is an important part of your overall wellness, and it’s never too late to start taking care of your teeth and gums. By maintaining good oral hygiene practices, such as regular brushing and flossing, visiting your dentist regularly, and staying on top of your overall health, you can reduce your risk of problems, allowing you to enjoy a healthy and happy life.
Comprehensive Dental Care in Eugene, Oregon
To keep your teeth and gums in the best health possible, visit Dr. Binder at 360 Dental in Eugene, OR. Our high quality, family-friendly dental practice provides a comprehensive range of general and restorative dental services to take care of all your oral health needs. We offer teeth cleanings, routine exams, oral surgery, tooth extraction, dental implants, teeth whitening, and much more.